[[overallocation]] === Shard Overallocation

A shard lives on a single node,((("scaling", "shard overallocation")))((("shards", "overallocation of"))) but a node can hold multiple shards. Imagine that we created our index with two primary shards instead of one:


PUT /my_index { "settings": { "number_of_shards": 2, <1> "number_of_replicas": 0 }


<1> Create an index with two primary shards and zero replica shards.

With a single node, both shards would be assigned to the same node. From the point of view of our application, everything functions as it did before. The application communicates with the index, not the shards, and there is still only one index.

This time, when we add a second node, Elasticsearch will automatically move one shard from the first node to the second node, as depicted in <>. Once the relocation has finished, each shard will have access to twice the computing power that it had before.

[[img-two-shard]] .An index with two shards can take advantage of a second node image::images/elas_4402.png["An index with two shards can take advantage of a second node"]

We have been able to double our capacity by simply copying a shard across the network to the new node. The best part is, we achieved this with zero downtime. All indexing and search requests continued to function normally while the shard was being moved.

A new index in Elasticsearch is allotted five primary shards by default. That means that we can spread that index out over a maximum of five nodes, with one shard on each node. That's a lot of capacity, and it happens without you having to think about it at all!

.Shard Splitting

Users often ask why Elasticsearch doesn't support shard-splitting—the ability to split each shard into two or more pieces. ((("shard splitting"))) The reason is that shard-splitting is a bad idea:

  • Splitting a shard is almost equivalent to reindexing your data. It's a much heavier process than just copying a shard from one node to another.

  • Splitting is exponential. You start with one shard, then split into two, and then four, eight, sixteen, and so on. Splitting doesn't allow you to increase capacity by just 50%.

  • Shard splitting requires you to have enough capacity to hold a second copy of your index. Usually, by the time you realize that you need to scale out, you don't have enough free space left to perform the split.

In a way, Elasticsearch does support shard splitting. You can always reindex your data to a new index with the appropriate number of shards (see <>). It is still a more intensive process than moving shards around, and still requires enough free space to complete, but at least you can control the number of shards in the new index.